When you’re choosing your baby’s name, you might fall into the debate between the pros and cons of gender neutral names and how it will impact your child’s life, but it might not make a difference at all.
When my mom was pregnant, and my parents debated girl or boy names, they ultimately decided that they’d name me Holland no matter my gender. Although I doubt they debated the pros and cons of gender neutral names, they chose the name and I was born a girl named Holland, and I’ve been mistaken for a boy many, many times in my life. It’s OK, I don’t actually care, but I can’t tell you how many pieces of mail I’ve received addressed to Mr. Holland. Then again, the 90s were a bit different when it came to discussing gender identity.
In today’s world, it’s more and more common to raise who some are calling “theybies” in order avoid pressuring children with gender. Many parents feel that giving their children gender neutral names is the first step to raising children outside of traditional gender norms. Accompanied with “they” and “them” pronouns and allowing children to choose their own clothes and toys from any section of a store, children are less likely to be pigeon holed into a gender that they didn’t choose for themselves. That said, what’s in a name?
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Now, we can argue the pros and cons of gender neutral names from both sides quite easily. The most important thing is there is NO wrong answer because you can raise your child however you see fit. It doesn’t matter what name you choose for your child in the end because it’s about how you raise them, not what they’re called.
The Pros of Gender Neutral Names
The obvious pro of gender neutral names is that it’s a stepping point for raising gender-neutral children, or “theybies.” Even if you don’t choose to go as far as using “they” or “them” pronouns with your children, having a gender-neutral name may allow kids to push beyond gender norms in other ways. Ultimately, if you love a name for your child and don’t know if it is considered gender neutral, perhaps you can make it one. It’s OK to break with tradition when it feels right for you and your family, and there are ways to create neutral names out of traditionally gendered names, such as Billie vs. Billy. If you don’t want to pressure your child with gender but still choose a traditionally gendered name, you can also use more gender neutral nicknames, such as Char for Charlotte or Billy for William.
One could also argue that gender neutral names are useful in online communication, such as for a job. Because women are often treated differently in the professional world, having a gender neutral name as a woman could help reduce bias against them when applying for jobs. After all, a resume doesn’t make your gender clear.
The Cons of Gender Neutral Names
No matter how you raise your kids, you’ll never be able to fully protect them from the stereotypes of others. If your gender neutral name results in people constantly confusing your child’s gender, it’s important to gauge how that impacts you and your family. In most cases, it’s not a big deal, but the older children get, the more they may get teased for having a “boy name” or a “girl name.” There’s no doubt this is harder for young boys because there are more popular gender neutral names for girls than there are for boys.
Ultimately, I’m not sure who made these rules, but I’d say rules are meant to be broken! If you are the type of parent who is open to your child exploring their gender identity, then you can allow them to regardless of the name you gave them. Names can be changed, and names can be just names, so choose what feels right and disregard the pros and cons of gender neutral names.
Have you chosen a gender neutral name? Was there a special reason behind it? We’d love to read about it in the comments, but remember, please be kind to all commenters.